Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Dear Law Student: I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the profession that you are about to enter is one of the most unhappy and unhealthy on the face of the earth--and, in the view of many, one of the most unethical. The good news is that you can join this profession and still be happy, healthy, and ethical. I am writing to tell you how. I. THE WELL-BEING OF LAWYERS Lawyers play an enormously important role in our society. "It is the lawyers who run our civilization for us-our governments, our business, our private lives." Thus you might expect that a lot of people would be concerned about the physical and mental health of lawyers. You would be wrong. Contrary to the old joke, scientists have not replaced laboratory rats with lawyers, and medical literature has little to say about the well-being of attorneys. At the same time, many law professors-at least those teaching at the fifty or so schools that consider themselves to be in the "Top Twenty"-do not care much about lawyers. Increasingly, faculties of elite schools and aspiring elite schools consist of professors who have not practiced law, who have little interest in teaching students to practice law, and who pay scant attention to the work of practicing lawyers. Even law professors like me-law professors who practiced law for several years, who love teaching, and who are intensely interested in the work of lawyers--often do not have the training or resources to conduct empirical research about the legal profession. As a result, legal scholarship also has little to say about the well-being of attorneys.

If one looks hard enough, though, one can scratch up some in- formation about the health and happiness of attorneys. And this in- formation-although rather sparse and, in some cases, of limited value-strongly suggests that lawyers are in remarkably poor health and quite unhappy.